The gift of leadership
An Open Letter to the Very Young Officer, by C.N.W. (From the Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, Vol. LXII., February to November, 1917)
In the Old Army the great majority of the officers were drawn from the class, or genus, which in the bird world is represented by the gallinaceous, or combative, fowls, you who read this may belong to that' genus, or you may come of a more peaceful and dove-like stock, but if from the latter you show an amazing pugnacity which, dropping the bird metaphor, goes to prove that the Germans and our own ante bellum croakers were a bit out in their prognostications that the British race was decadent, and that the British lower middle class was so steeped in commercialism and the labouring classes in Trade Unionism—relieved by striking and watching professional football matches—as to be of no account as fighting men.
Events have proved that the race can fight as well as ever it did—all classes and sections of it, "Duke's son, cook's son, or son of a belted earl"; but don't run away with the idea that because you possess the national courage, and your name has appeared in the London Gazette as a Temporary Second Lieutenant, you are by mere virtue of being a commissioned officer also a leader of men, to be that you must possess, or set to work to acquire if you want to be a good officer and not a useless—and therefore in war a dangerous—slacker, the qualities which make for leadership.
I don't suppose you have had time, recently, to indulge in light literature such as Blackwood's Magazine, or the Journal of the Royal Artillery Institution, in which case you will have missed reading in the former the description—under the title "Fallen Angels"—of the gradual, and at times painful, process of forming the young, New Army, officer in a cadet corps, and, in the latter, the very excellent open letter by "Esterel" to the Junior (Artillery) Subaltern.
This is what the author of "Fallen Angels" has to say-and it is worth considering-about the qualities which make for leadership:—
"The obvious qualities that an officer must possess … are …
"(1) The gift of leadership.
"(2) A personality and a character that will command the respect of the men committed to his care.
"(3) A smart personal appearance combined with cleanly and temperate habits, for no man can be expected to respect a leader who never washes, or is seen to be tight, or wandering about in a public place arm in arm with ladies of slight reputation."